Your body changes as life goes on, so its nutritional needs change as well. A great article on Health.com lists nutritional needs specific to women in their 30s, their 40s and their 50s as well as food items that fit those suggestions. Another article in Eating Well even boils it down to one main food that a woman in each decade should make sure she gets enough of. While any woman at every age should aim for a balanced, nutritious diet, different times of life may require a higher concentration of certain vitamins or nutrients.
Keep in mind that these are only approximations and are not intended to indicate that everyone will be experiencing a similar lifestyle at a certain age. However, the health benefits will apply to most women.
Women in their 30s
According to the Health.com article, women in their 30s are typically on the go and balancing everything from kids, to job, to social life, to exercise and beyond. Busy women in this age bracket probably need to focus on getting enough:
- Calcium – You can only build bone mass until about 35, and then it starts deteriorating. Build it up while you can! Aim for 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese are a great way to get calcium.
- Iron – To boost your immune system and prevent anemia, you need 18 mg of iron each day. Beans, lean beef and spinach are a great source of iron. Many fortified cereals contain a healthy amount of iron as well. Iron deficiency may make you feel tired, so make sure you’re getting the recommended amount without overdoing it.
- Folic acid – If you’re trying to get pregnant (and even if you’re not), try to incorporate 400 micrograms of folic acid into your daily diet. Several folic acid-rich foods include asparagus, oranges and leafy greens (many of which also contain a lot of calcium – double the benefit!).
The Eating Well article recommends that women in their 30s eat a lot of beans because of the folates, fiber and protein.
Women in their 40s
You’ve got more responsibilities in your 40s, not only with your family and job but possibly with your aging parents too. Your blood pressure and cholesterol go up while your metabolism goes down. Limit the amount of sodium you eat (try to get less than 2,300 milligrams per day) and lower your intake of processed food. Make sure you’re getting enough:
- Potassium – Food with potassium contains plenty of phytochemicals, which help fight disease. It also helps maintain your blood pressure. Aim for 4,700 milligrams per day. Bonus – they help you feel full with fewer calories! Most people think of bananas when they think of potassium, but it also includes a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. It’s also found in the skin of many vegetables. Some other options include broccoli, potatoes and chicken.
- Fiber – Fiber is good for your digestion, and it also makes you feel more full on fewer calories. Get at least 3 servings a day of oatmeal, corn, whole wheat, brown rice, etc. Many fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber as well.
- Calcium – Don’t forget your calcium! It’s still just as important.
The Eating Well article suggests that women in their 40s replace refined grains (white bread, white rice) with whole grains (oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread) to help fight both blood pressure and metabolism issues.
Women in their 50s
Other things in life are finally settling into place, only now your hormones decided to take a ride on the wild side. The changes in your body, especially menopause, require a lot of extra nutrients and attention. Here are a few areas to check:
- Vitamins B12 and B6 – These vitamins help prevent your arteries from hardening. Try to get 2.4 micrograms of B12 (chicken, fish, eggs) and 1.5 milligrams of B6 (potatoes, bananas).
- Antioxidants – Antioxidants help fight breast cancer and macular degeneration as well as helping you avoid age-related cataracts. Bright, richly colored vegetables are typically packed with antioxidants. Some examples are broccoli, brussels sprouts and blueberries.
- Vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to help it absorb calcium, which is especially important at this stage of life. Most women don’t get enough (you need about 400 IU per day), so you may need a supplement or more time outside in the sun.
- And of course, keep up with your calcium!
The Eating Well article recommended low-fat yogurt for women in their 50s because it’s a great source of calcium.